In the good old days of Test cricket it was easy to measure a player's value. A player was "valuable" if he played match-winning knocks, bowled match-winning spells, scored a lot of runs, took a lot of wickets, fielded smartly, and took good catches.
When ODI cricket came along a few more caveats were added to the value proposition: the batsman had to score runs faster, the bowler had to bowl more economically, and the fielder now had to dive around the cricket field like a man possessed to hold catches or save runs.
T20 cricket required players to continue doing the same thing, but at a more frenetic pace.
The IPL, with all the big money around it, has however completely redefined the concept of a cricketer's value: a player is now valuable if he can bat, bowl and field to provide the best return on investment. A player is only good if he's "paisa vasool"; if he costs the least and contributes the most.
How does one measure a player's contribution? It's hard to factor in non-cricketing variables like leadership skill, brand strength, personal popularity, good looks etc. into the equation, but we can certainly talk of a player's on-field contribution.
When we try to measure a player's on-field performance we run into one obvious difficulty: how do we compare batsmen (who score runs) with bowlers (who take wickets)? The matter would get greatly simplified if we can agree to measure everything only in terms of runs. This essentially boils down to answering the following question: how many runs is a wicket worth?
Let us suppose that 160 is now a par score in the IPL. This means that, on the average, 8 runs are scored per six-ball over, and we may assume that each wicket equals 16 runs. Of course this sort of assumption is highly debatable, but our analysis suggests that it still works rather well. (See graphics on the right)
We have carried out such a "paisa vasool" analysis for all the IPL players and come up with some interesting results. Who are the batsmen and bowlers who have provided the best return on investment? Which IPL team is getting the best value for money? Are younger players more valuable than the seniors? How do foreign players compare with Indian players? What could be good strategies for franchise owners when they sit down to select their 2009 teams?
In today's note, and in the notes to follow, we will look at such questions and come up with answers based on extensive statistical analysis.
All the statistical analysis has been undertaken by a team at Cranes Software International Limited, Bangalore.